Baylor Mourns Death of Former Harp Professor

Oct. 24, 2006
News Photo 3861Mary K. Alexander

Mary Kathryn Alexander, an accomplished musician who taught harp and piano at the Baylor University School of Music for more than 20 years, passed away Oct. 21 in Waco at the age of 80.

Memorial services will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Bosque Chapel with the Father Alex Montes officiating.

Mary K., as she was known, was born on June 14, 1926, to Cresco Esta and Mary Esther Stemm in Elkhart, Ind. She graduated from Elkhart High School in 1943 and studied Harp Performance under Eileen Malone at the Eastman School of Music, where she received her bachelor of music degree in 1947, as well as the seldom-awarded Performer's Certificate in Harp. She attended the Tanglewood Music Festival Institute in Massachusetts during the summers of 1947 and 1948, where she studied under Bernard Zighera. She played there under the direction of Conductor Serge Koussevitzky and also then Assistant Conductor Leonard Bernstein.

Mary K. taught harp and piano at Baylor's School of Music from 1948-55 and from 1967-86. She performed in the Waco Symphony for 25 years under the direction of Daniel Sternberg. She also played in the Baylor Symphony and the Baylor Opera. Over the course of her music career, Mary K. performed in the Washington, D.C., Civic Symphony, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and the South Bend Symphony. She performed with the National Harp Association and was a soloist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She also was a favorite harp performer on "Embassy Row," when she and her family lived in Washington, D.C.

She was the loving wife of her husband of 55 years, Dr. Wesley Merle Alexander, professor emeritus of physics and environmental studies at Baylor who preceded her in death in 2004.

Mary K's obituary stated, "Their marriage was truly an unusual bonding of spirit and heart and her love for him was unconditional as it was also for their four children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Mary K. was fun loving and adventuresome, caring and loving. She was extremely fond of traveling and made sure her children had many opportunities to learn about culture, history, food and music through travels both within the U.S. and abroad. Last but not least, Mary K. and her husband passed on their intense love and passion for music to their children and grandchildren."

Mary K. was, at various times in her life, a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Indiana and Herring Avenue Methodist, Trinity Methodist, Lake Shore Hills Presbyterian, Central Presbyterian, and the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit churches in Waco and was a beloved choir member for many years. She blessed many Easter and Christmas Eve services with her harp performances.

She is survived by her four children: David and wife Marie Azzinaro of Oklahoma City; Kathryn of New Haven, Conn.; Sara Alexander, associate professor of environmental studies and interim chair of anthropology, forensic science and archeology at Baylor, and husband Mahamane Mamadou of Waco; and Matthew and wife Kathleen of San Antonio; grandchildren Samantha Youts, Elizabeth Alexander, Olivia Bible, Noel Alexander, Salif Mahamane, Aissa Mahamane, Christopher Alexander, and Stephanie Alexander; and great-grandchildren Elizabeth Barwick, Erin Wilson, and Alex Wilson.

Memorial donations may be made to the W. Merle and Mary K. Alexander Endowment Scholarship Fund at Baylor University.

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